THE TEAM TO BEAT: Reigning Dakar champions and favourites for the 2016 event - two-times winner Nasser Al-Attiyah (R) and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (L). Image: Supplied
Chile - With four consecutive Dakar victories in the last five years, 11 out of 13 Dakar stages won in 2015 and a strong contingent of 12 cars entered for 2016, Mini All4 Racing is the team to beat.
The FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, with challenging terrain ranging from extreme dust-like sand in desert heat to ice and snow conditions in Russia, has proved the ideal testing ground for the development of the Mini.
Read: 2016 Dakar Rally: 12 things you should know
The reigning Dakar champions and favourites for the 2016 event, two-times winner Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) and Co-Driver Mathieu Baumel (Germany), also added the 2015 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup title to their list of achievements.
However, they were not the only successful Mini All4 Racing drivers in the series.
Vladimir Vasilyev and Konstantin Zhiltsov secured victory in Abu Dhabi, Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and co-driver Alex Haro tasted success in Aragon, Spain, and Krzysztof Holowczyc with Lukas Kurzeja enjoyed a home victory in Poland.
Outside of the FIA World Cup, Orlando Terranova and Bernardo ‘Ronnie’ Graue steered their Mini to a win in the Ruta 40 in Argentina.
This challenging testing regime and competitive racing has provided huge amounts of data and insight for X-Raid, the German company who build all the Minis for competition, and this will again prove vital in their preparations for Dakar.
Besides Al-Athiya, Roma and Terranova the other Mini teams for Dakar are:
Newcomer and WRC star Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) and veteran Michel Périn (France), the Dutch pair Erik Van and Wouter Rosegaar, Adam Malysz (Poland) and Xavier Panseri (France), the Pole Jakub ‘Kuba’ Przygonski and Russian Andrei Rudnitski, the Brit Harry Hunt and Andreas Schulz (Germany), Boris Garafulic (Chile) and Filipe Palmeiro (Portugal), Argentine Nazareno Lopez and Sergio Lafuente (Uruguay), the Germans Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt, and Chinese competitors Guo Meiling and Min Liao.
In support of the 12 teams X-Raid has sent 130 personnel and shipped 800 spare tyres and wheels, 16 service trucks, 5 motorhomes, 10 service vehicles and 4 press cars to Buenos Aires.